D&D 5E The Solution to Perception?

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Thinking on this more...does perception seem to have more in common with abilities rather than skills? I know WotC won't violate the sacred six abilities, but the ubiquity of perception and the fact that it is such an uncomfortable fit with any of the current abilities suggests that maybe it could be its own sub-ability or something. I don't think it should be tied to wisdom.
I think it's fine as is. Skills are a bonus to an ability check. So "Perception" really just is a Wisdom check. The fact remains it's actually quite hard for most monsters to surprise the PCs since - much like most adventurers - one of them is likely to botch the roll and ruin surprise. And not every monster is even going to try to surprise the PCs, if the DM is basing such decisions on the monster's stats or lore. I, for example, only have monsters that have training in Stealth and/or lore that suggests they are the type to ambush make the attempt, which is something like 30% of all monsters last time I checked. If the DM is having every single monster attempt to surprise the PC, then yeah, Perception is going to be way overvalued in that game compared to a game where the DM doesn't do that.

If we're talking about searching for hidden objects or the Search action instead of surprise, we're still only talking about a difference of +2 to +6 in most cases due to the skill proficiency, plus there's always the option to Work Together or take the Help action to boost it. Plus potentially guidance, bardic inspiration, Inspiration, etc. If the DM is sticking to DCs of 10 to 20, which the DMG says is a perfectly reasonable range for just about everything, the character still has a chance of success at any level unless they have an 8 Wisdom. It's just some characters will have a bit of an easier time with it.

This is before the DM even applies flourishes like "progress combined with a setback" on a failed check instead of "You don't find anything." (Perhaps you find the thing on a failed check, but you inadvertently created noise, drawing unwanted attention.) Not the result the player wanted perhaps, but not nothing either.
 

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James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Thinking on this more...does perception seem to have more in common with abilities rather than skills? I know WotC won't violate the sacred six abilities, but the ubiquity of perception and the fact that it is such an uncomfortable fit with any of the current abilities suggests that maybe it could be its own sub-ability or something. I don't think it should be tied to wisdom.
I remember the first time I played Earthdawn and I was astounded to see Perception was an ability score and Intelligence wasn't. But after playing it for awhile, I realized that was actually pretty brilliant. D&D isn't really built to have Intelligence matter the way it ought; Intelligent characters don't learn faster or solve problems better than other characters.

The real issue with Perception, in my mind, is that a lot of people don't realize that it doesn't govern what you see or sense- it governs what (to paraphrase Holmes) you observe.
 

Clint_L

Hero
I think it's fine as is. Skills are a bonus to an ability check. So "Perception" really just is a Wisdom check. The fact remains it's actually quite hard for most monsters to surprise the PCs since - much like most adventurers - one of them is likely to botch the roll and ruin surprise. And not every monster is even going to try to surprise the PCs, if the DM is basing such decisions on the monster's stats or lore. I, for example, only have monsters that have training in Stealth and/or lore that suggests they are the type to ambush make the attempt, which is something like 30% of all monsters last time I checked. If the DM is having every single monster attempt to surprise the PC, then yeah, Perception is going to be way overvalued in that game compared to a game where the DM doesn't do that.

If we're talking about searching for hidden objects or the Search action instead of surprise, we're still only talking about a difference of +2 to +6 in most cases due to the skill proficiency, plus there's always the option to Work Together or take the Help action to boost it. Plus potentially guidance, bardic inspiration, Inspiration, etc. If the DM is sticking to DCs of 10 to 20, which the DMG says is a perfectly reasonable range for just about everything, the character still has a chance of success at any level unless they have an 8 Wisdom. It's just some characters will have a bit of an easier time with it.

This is before the DM even applies flourishes like "progress combined with a setback" on a failed check instead of "You don't find anything." (Perhaps you find the thing on a failed check, but you inadvertently created noise, drawing unwanted attention.) Not the result the player wanted perhaps, but not nothing either.
I totally get what you are saying, and agree that for practical purposes it works okay as is. And certainly I don't like adding more rules.

But don't you agree that it feels odd in the story that the best person for perception is so often the cleric, even though the party might be traveling through the barbarian's wilderness homeland and the cleric has never previously left the city? I find it happens all the time that the character who should be the obvious choice to be perceptive in a particular situation is seldom asked to make the roll.

That's why I could see an argument for perception being its own thing, attached to background.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
But don't you agree that it feels odd in the story that the best person for perception is so often the cleric, even though the party might be traveling through the barbarian's wilderness homeland and the cleric has never previously left the city? I find it happens all the time that the character who should be the obvious choice to be perceptive in a particular situation is seldom asked to make the roll.
I'm not sure I follow the latter part here: Who is the one describing the action that the DM is then calling for an ability check to resolve? Because the barbarian in this example could certainly be that person. If they aren't, then why aren't they? The DM isn't just pointing at the one with the best Perception and asking them to roll without an action declaration are they? (Not that I want to criticize the example. I just want to make sure we're imagining the same scenario or at least playing the game in a similar way.)
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I would argue that the Barbarian in this example should have advantage on their roll simply because this is their wilderness homeland! And perhaps the Cleric should have disadvantage because it is such an unfamiliar environment to them. Isn't this what advantage/disadvantage is for?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I would argue that the Barbarian in this example should have advantage on their roll simply because this is their wilderness homeland! And perhaps the Cleric should have disadvantage because it is such an unfamiliar environment to them. Isn't this what advantage/disadvantage is for?
That's certainly an option. This reminds me of the objections to the barbarian failing to break down the door only to be upstaged by the wizard who just gets a lucky roll. It subverts a reasonable expectation so it feels "wrong." The opportunity there, however, is to explain why it went down that way. That interaction between mechanics and explanation is an engine that generates story.

So why does the cleric do better in perceiving something in the wilds of the barbarian's homeland? I dunno, but they do. Let's come up with a satisfying explanation as to why rather than get stuck on what we expected not happening.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I think untrained should grant disadvantage for every skill. You ever seen someone try and make cookies from scratch who has never baked before?
I just did what Alton Brown told me and it worked. Like everything I cooked.

Actually, that's the real skill question: What is the 'is able to listen to an follow instructions' stat?
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
I think it's fine as is. Skills are a bonus to an ability check.
I can't even offer a reasoned explanation, but I viscerally hate the [Skill][Ability] format of skill checks. In my opinion, Skill should trump ability. To the point, I'd sacrifice agility scores before skills.

I'm not a good fiction writer because I have high Charisma, it's because I've been doing it for a quarter century.

I'm not a good cook because I'm wise or smart, it's because I read and follow recipies.

I'm not a good driver because I'm dexterous, it's because I know the rules of the road and I'm not willing to endanger everyone on the road to get there faster.

I'm not bad at math because I'm stupid, I just stopped using it once I reached the real world and that skill decayed.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I can't even offer a reasoned explanation, but I viscerally hate the [Skill][Ability] format of skill checks. In my opinion, Skill should trump ability. To the point, I'd sacrifice agility scores before skills.

I'm not a good fiction writer because I have high Charisma, it's because I've been doing it for a quarter century.

I'm not a good cook because I'm wise or smart, it's because I read and follow recipies.

I'm not a good driver because I'm dexterous, it's because I know the rules of the road and I'm not willing to endanger everyone on the road to get there faster.

I'm not bad at math because I'm stupid, I just stopped using it once I reached the real world and that skill decayed.
The good news is that a preference doesn't require an explanation, though it can be fun to see if one can figure out where it comes from.

As presented in the rules, the ability is broad and the skill is specific. So anyone can attempt to swim in treacherous currents, say, and that might result in a Strength check to resolve uncertainty as to the outcome. Someone with the Athletics skill is just a bit better at that task, on average, but not always. Same deal with noticing a hidden monster before it ambushes you. The character with proficiency in Perception will just tend to be more successful. I think that's pretty reasonable.

Now what I often see is players go for specialization - the high Wisdom character usually takes Perception if they can. I am not sure that's really the best strategy. (But of course that depends on how the DM presents the game.) For my part, I much prefer to take skills in areas where my character doesn't have strong ability scores unless I'm going for some kind of meme. This means I have a better chance of succeeding in multiple areas rather than a great chance at succeeding in a couple of areas and low chances everywhere else. So my cleric doesn't take Perception because I know I'll top out at PP 15 once my Wisdom is 20 and that's not half bad. I'll be surprised sometimes, but not a lot, unless as noted above the DM has every monster attempt to surprise. That allows me to put that skill in Athletics, for example so as to better resist grapples or escape from them or climb a slippery cliff or whatever.
 

Reynard

Legend
I just did what Alton Brown told me and it worked. Like everything I cooked.

Actually, that's the real skill question: What is the 'is able to listen to an follow instructions' stat?
Well, you can counter disadvantage with advantage from the Help action by a trained chef!
 



My problem with that -- and advantage as a whole -- is that 1) if anything else grants them advantage (and it will as that's like the one mechanic PCs still have in terms of skills) being a banker means nothing and 2) being a baker doesn't actually make them better at being a baker than someone with a good stat and the random advantage boost.

I frankly like actual bonuses much, much better than advantage and think advantage should be used for extraordinary circumstances like magic

Do you have issue with the DM granting auto-success? The baker wants to find food and spices - if there’s no uncertainty and/or no meaningful consequence for failure, no roll necessary. Now being a baker means a whole heck of a lot.

Or auto failure? The non-baker wants to find food and spices - sorry, no soup for you!
 


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